A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government was just a “phone call away” for talks with the farmers agitating against the farm laws, union leaders on Sunday said a “respectful solution” should be found but they will not agree to anything “under pressure”.
Farmer leaders Rakesh and Naresh Tikait demanded that the government release the protesters to create a conducive environment for talks, even as Prime Minister Modi, during his monthly radio address, said that the country was saddened by the “insult” to the Tricolour on the Republic Day, referring to the violence at Red Fort during the farmers’ tractor parade.
As hundreds of farmers continued to converge at Ghazipur on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border following a tearful BharatiyaKisan Union leader RakeshTikait’s impassioned appeal on Thursday, the ripples spread deeper in western Uttar Pradesh where a mahapanchyat was held in Baghpat in support of the stir, the third in as many days in the key region.
ShiromaniAkali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal met RakeshTikait, joining several other leaders from the opposition parties who have visited the protest site to extend their support.
The farmers will honour the dignity of the prime minister, but are also committed to protecting their self-respect, the Tikait brothers who are leading the agitation asserted, even as they warned that the farm laws issue could cost the BJP dear electorally.
“They (Farmers) are free to vote anyone, we cannot ask them to vote for a particular party…If a party has hurt them, why would they bring it to power again?” NareshTikait said.
Both the leader said they were open to talks with the government to find a “middle path”.
Prime Minister Modi had on Saturday said his government’s offer on agri laws made to protesting farmers “still stands” and the Centre was just a “phone call away” for talks, days after violence broke out in parts of the national capital on Republic Day.
Rakesh said they will honour and respect the dignity of prime minister, and added the farmers don’t want the government or Parliament to “bow down to them”. But at the same time, he added, they will also ensure the self-respect of farmers is protected.
During their January 26 parade, scores of protesters had stormed the Red Fort, with some of them hoisting religious flags on its ramparts.
The two leaders condemned Republic Day violence and said it was unacceptable, even though they alleged it was the result of a conspiracy. They said the Tricolour was above everything and they will never let anyone disrespect it.